Monday, March 21, 2011

The Sweet 16. From an NBA perspective

Irving is the ONE to watch.
Kyrie Irving - Duke 6'2" 172 Point Guard - Freshman ...A possible first pick in the NBA Draft. He is a pure point guard that passes ahead, finds the open-man, and does so at NBA speed. He is a smart right-handed guard that may not wow you with the type of athleticism that Russell Westbrook or Derrick Rose possess - but nevertheless - Irving gets the job done (think more like Chris Paul style). Irving has good first-step quickness - which gives him the ability to get into the paint. He only played in eight games this season to date but in those eight contests - he was at times dominant. His .702 EFR translates to ELITE Point Guard status at the next level. The question is whether or not - the small sample size of efficiency could have been maintained through ACC play - had he been healthy. ...Irving is a former McDonald's All-American.  

Kawhi Leonard - San Diego State 6'7" 225 Sophomore. ...I am sold on Kawhi Leonard! He has a unique skill set that is highlighted by a scorer's instinct, ball-handling ability and rebounding prowess. Really - he is just a basketball player. Leonard has big hands and a nose for the ball. He is a SPECIAL talent where rebounding is concerned. There are very few players who have what I call "suction cups" (for hands). Leonard is one of the few. His ability to grab balls sticks out like animation in reality. Imagine a player with guard-like dribbling ability that can get you nearly eleven boards per game and you begin to understand the rare value in Kawhi Leonard. He also finishes in transition, and powers through opponents with an advanced dribble-drive game. ...He has more assists than turnovers. Leonard's weakness to date is his three-point shooting (.240 career). ...If you wonder why San Diego State has been unusually good this season, Kawhi Leonard is the biggest factor.

Marcus Morris - Kansas 6'8" 225 Junior. ...Morris is one half of the "Kansas Twins". He and brother Markieff are hard working kids that bring skill and toughness to a team. Marcus was recently named the Big 12 Player of the Year. He is great in transition and can finish plays at the rim. In half-court sets - he is patient and smart. He can step out and hit a three point shot. He takes charges. He is alert. His combination of strength and quickness in face up situations vs. power players is very nice. …While not the playmaker that Rodney McCray was - Morris nevertheless reminds me of McCray with his ability to handle the ball or post up. Both are the kind of player that holds a team together with their ability and no nonsense approach. Morris is an excellent rebounder and he shoots 56% FG (career!). Led the Prep Charter High School Eagles to back-to-back Pennsylvania state titles in 2007 and 2006. In `07 he hit the game winning shot in the state championship game. 

DeShaun Thomas - Ohio St. 6'7" 221 Freshman - Thomas only plays an average of 14 minutes per game off the bench as a Buckeye freshman but his efficiency and past accomplishments lead us to believe he may be the best Shooting Guard (or Small Forward) prospect in this tournament when we look back at it in five years. ...Thomas was Mr. Basketball 2010 in Indiana where he was a McDonald's All-American. He is an NBA athlete that can score and rebound at a high rate. ...Thomas won two Indiana state high school championships (2008 & 2009). 

Jimmer Freddette - BYU 6'2" 195 Senior. - Jimmer Fredette is a phenomenal scorer. He is a combo-guard that leads the nation at 28.5 points per game. He can create his own scoring opportunities off the dribble. Right handed. ...He is a tremendously accurate shooter (40% from three and .90% FT). Freddette is coming off a Mountain West Tournament where he had a 52 point game vs. New Mexico. In that game - he hit seven triples.  ...Good ball handler. ...He has long arms. ...Fredette has the ability to control his pace. …Not just a three point shooter. …Good with the ball in his hands - and capable of making plays at full speed. He has ability to make crazy, circus shots. ...He will jack some quick attempts but you live with it because he can light up the scoreboard like few ever have. Freddette is so popular - he is featured on CNN's website

Jared Sullinger - Ohio St. 6'8" 262 Freshman - Sullinger has been an impact freshman for the #1 ranked Buckeyes. He is a big, wide bodied low post scorer that entered college prepared to be a BIG man. He is remarkably fundamentally sound for his age. This season his averages are 17 points (53% FG) and ten boards. ...While there is considerable hype around Sullinger - one must keep in mind - this is a down year overall for talent. The truth is - Sullinger's game is below the rim and he turns it over more than he assists. His free throw percentage is 70%.

Thomas Robinson Kansas 6'9" 237 Sophomore - Robinson is a hyper-athletic front court playmaker that has the athleticism necessary to compete on the NBA hardwood. He is a fantastic offensive rebounder and energy guy. His efficiency in limited minutes translates well to the NBA. On the downside, most of Robinson's success comes from his athleticism and power rather than from skill. He is a poor free throw shooter at 50%, and he also has more than two turnovers for every assist. ...Sadly, Robinson's mother died January 22nd. Read an excellent feature here.

John Henson - North Carolina 6'10" 210 Sophomore - Henson is a super long shot blocker and offensive rebounding force that struggles with his shooting. He is rail thin but he changes opponent's shots with his long reach, and quick reactions. He has 113 blocked shots this season in 934 minutes! His field goal percentage is .503 - which is more of a reflection of the number of dunks and tip-ins he gets due to his length than due to his shooting skill (or lack thereof). …He is at .454 for his career at the free throw line which is horrible. ...The biggest question with Henson I see going forward is will his thin frame be able to withstand the rigors of the NBA? He looks too thin. I am already sold on his ability to impact games in the paint with his combo of reach and bounce. 

Tyler Zeller - North Carolina 7'0" 245 Junior - Zeller can run and finish well for a seven footer. He hustles. …Owns a quick release on his shot and he has touch. He uses both hands well in the low post. He is more effective with hook shots going over the top of the defense than he is trying to go at someone. ...He competes. He takes charges. ...Hits offensive glass and will score on tip-ins. ...He needs to be a better passer out of the low post. His assist-to-turnover ratio is horrid (4 to's for every 1 assist. ugh.) ...He needs to get stronger - especially in his lower body - as he will have difficulty holding his ground to get his low post game off at the next level. 

Derrick Williams - Arizona 6'8" 241 Sophomore - Williams is a strong one-on-one player that can score and get to the free throw line with regularity. …He hit the game winner with a quick-reaction move while falling down to send Arizona to the Sweet 16. He is too quick to be guarded by Power Forwards yet too powerful to be guarded by small forwards. …He doesn't pass the ball much. …Mostly a determined, confident scorer. He has an uncanny ability to make three point shots. He is shooting 60% from THREE POINT RANGE! ...He has a quick second jump. 

Jimmy Butler - Marquette - 6'7" 220 Senior. ...His coach (Buzz Williams) calls him the hardest working kid he's ever coached. …Jimmy Butler is a late bloomer that has improved by leaps and bounds since starting his collegiate career at a Junior College. …He rarely takes a bad shot - which is reflected in his career 51% FG shooting. ...He is smart - with a 1.6-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio (career). ...He is a good athlete with hang-time in his jumping ability. ...This season Butler averages 16 points and six rebounds per game. His three-point shooting ability is a key part of his evolving game. He doesn't shoot a high volume of threes but he makes a great percentage (.409) of the long ball shots he throws up.

Jeremy Lamb - Connecticut 6'5" 185 Freshman - Lamb is an athletic guard with ball-handling skills. He averages ten points, and four rebounds per game as a sidekick to Kemba Walker. Lamb stands out for his leaping ability and speed. He looks like a track athlete. He has a feel for the game - evidenced by his solid 1.19-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. His deep shooting is respectable at .351 from beyond arc. He hits 80% of his free throws. It will interesting to see how Lamb blossoms once Walker moves on to the NBA, and Lamb becomes a bigger part of the offense. 

Markieff Morris - Kansas 6'10" 245 Junior...Markieff is the less ballyhooed of the "Kansas Twins" but he is a formidable player himself. He scores 13.6 ppg, and grabs 8.2 rebounds each outing. Morris is shooting 60% from the field this season and also has the skill to stretch the defense with spot-up three point shooting (40%). He could be a better free throw shooter and he has more turnovers than assists but Morris is nevertheless as solid as they come. 

Kyle Singler - Duke 6'8" 230 Senior. ...Singler is a scrappy Small Forward that never ceases to amaze with his smarts, boundless energy, and relentless hustle. He shoots the three, he rebounds, he's a good free throw shooter. ...Singler seems to be mentally a step ahead of other players. He reads offensive situations and then makes the proper cut at the precise time to help his team. He is unselfish. …Limited in taking players off the dribble but he does uses crafty shot fakes and hesitations to get free. …Focused. ...High hoops I.Q. …Singler is Duke's most well rounded player. He was the 2010 ACC Tournament MVP.

Kemba Walker - Connecticut 6'1" 172 Junior - No player has received more television coverage this season than Kemba Walker. An ESPN darling, Walker is a strong Point Guard with great ball handling ability, combined with good speed. He repeatedly has nailed clutch shots for the Huskies this season - and he seems to shine when the lights are at their brightest. …Not afraid to go to the hole. …He competes. …Stays in plays defensively. …Crafty. Good in transition. …Can make a play one on one in crunch time. ...He has a nice stroke that is consistent and reliable. ...Quick hands. ...Alert. He will be among the steals leaders wherever he plays. ...He uses his off hand well (left). …Willing to accept a challenge. He reminds me of Ben Gordon but Walker is a little more of a PG than Gordon ever was. Walker has better vision than Gordon. ...Walker played for the Team USA Select team that practiced against the USA Men's senior National Team in the Summer of 2010. ...From the Bronx, NY. ...For his career his field goal percentage is just .430 - which helps to explain why U-Conn struggles to win with consistency. Defensively - I would like to see Walker have more active hands in on-ball situations.

Harrison Barnes - North Carolina 6'8" 210 Freshman. ...Barnes has NBA scouts mostly drooling over his scoring ability in an athletic package. He has come on strong down the stretch of his freshman season highlighted by a 40-point outburst vs. Clemson in the ACC Tournament. He has been hitting big buckets for the Heels. ...What concerns me still is that Barnes has mostly done his damage from the perimeter - showing a reluctance to get to the free throw line consistently. He also has more turnovers than assists. ...He is an excellent transition player that can finish above the rim. ...Right handed with ability to drive and score or hit a perimeter jump shot. A former McDonald's All-American.

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